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3/17/2015
04:00 PM
Sara Peters
Sara Peters
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The 7 Best Social Engineering Attacks Ever

Seven reminders of why technology alone isn't enough to keep you secure.
3 of 9

RSA SecurID Breach

Security experts are still guessing at the true impact of the mysterious breach of security company RSA in 2011. What is known is that RSA's parent company, EMC, spent $66 million recovering from the attack, and that information relating to RSA's popular SecurID two-factor authentication mechanism was compromised.

What remains a mystery is exactly what that information was. RSA said the breach could reduce the effectiveness of SecurID, but did not say whether or not the SecurID source code or cryptographic seed values were exposed.

Another thing that is known about the attack is that it began with social engineering. As RSA explained in a blog post:

'The attacker in this case sent two different phishing emails over a two-day period. The two emails were sent to two small groups of employees; you wouldn't consider these users particularly high-profile or high-value targets. The email subject line read '2011 Recruitment Plan.'

'The email was crafted well enough to trick one of the employees to retrieve it from their Junk mail folder, and open the attached excel file. It was a spreadsheet titled '2011 Recruitment plan.xls.'

'The spreadsheet contained a zero-day exploit that installs a backdoor through an Adobe Flash vulnerability (CVE-2011-0609).'

Ferrara lists this in his top five, because it was one of the first high-profile attacks against a security company, and it not only impacted the security of its initial target, but thousands of other organizations as well.

(image: photo of RSA Secure ID SID700 hardware token, by Rembert F. Ludovic, via Privacy Canada)

RSA SecurID Breach

Security experts are still guessing at the true impact of the mysterious breach of security company RSA in 2011. What is known is that RSA's parent company, EMC, spent $66 million recovering from the attack, and that information relating to RSA's popular SecurID two-factor authentication mechanism was compromised.

What remains a mystery is exactly what that information was. RSA said the breach could reduce the effectiveness of SecurID, but did not say whether or not the SecurID source code or cryptographic seed values were exposed.

Another thing that is known about the attack is that it began with social engineering. As RSA explained in a blog post:

"The attacker in this case sent two different phishing emails over a two-day period. The two emails were sent to two small groups of employees; you wouldnt consider these users particularly high-profile or high-value targets. The email subject line read '2011 Recruitment Plan.'

"The email was crafted well enough to trick one of the employees to retrieve it from their Junk mail folder, and open the attached excel file. It was a spreadsheet titled '2011 Recruitment plan.xls.'

"The spreadsheet contained a zero-day exploit that installs a backdoor through an Adobe Flash vulnerability (CVE-2011-0609)."

Ferrara lists this in his top five, because it was one of the first high-profile attacks against a security company, and it not only impacted the security of its initial target, but thousands of other organizations as well.

(image: photo of RSA Secure ID SID700 hardware token, by Rembert F. Ludovic, via Privacy Canada)

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CASVPN
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CASVPN,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/22/2019 | 7:36:16 AM
What is Social Engineering really?
I have been reading about the social engineering thing lately, I am getting lots of phishing emails lately and I wonder where I went wrong. May be someone has got a hold of my email. I have become more aware now and I literally check every link before even opening it.
Megan is Always Wright
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Megan is Always Wright,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/9/2017 | 11:15:58 AM
Re: What is Social Engineering really?
Social engineering is basically a technique that has long been used by humans even before the birth of the Internet. By using these techniques, the evildoers among us are able to win our trust, or more like fool us into sharing stuff that we shouldn't.

I also didnt understand what it was until i read this article (https://www.purevpn.com/blog/social-engineering-attacks/) which explained what it was and how to protect against it
nickhudson
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50%
nickhudson,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/5/2017 | 8:03:33 AM
What is Social Engineering really?
I have been reading about the social engineering thing lately, I am getting lots of phishing emails lately and I wonder where I went wrong. May be someone has got a hold of my email. I have become more aware now and I literally check every link before even opening it.
baller188
100%
0%
baller188,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/14/2017 | 6:00:19 AM
Forex security and vulnerabilities
Great post as always. Technology advances every day, new vulnerabilities arise all the time. Security is everyones main priority and rightly so. For any site owner nowadays you need a dedicated security team to make sure you and your customers are safe. Its a scary world out there.
Sincee
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50%
Sincee,
User Rank: Strategist
10/2/2015 | 4:56:47 AM
thank's for post
system security in any country is the future !
MichaelH91401
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MichaelH91401,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/1/2015 | 3:18:11 PM
Re: name required
The post refers to "Ferrara" repeatedly, but never describes who he is or what he does. 
AnonymousC493
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AnonymousC493,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/9/2015 | 9:41:21 AM
Social Engineering examples
Here's another example:

https://engineering.social/2015/05/02/sinkholing-script-kiddies/

It's not one of 'the best social engineering attacks' ever, but shows that anyone can be a target.

 

 
mithoon
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100%
mithoon,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/28/2015 | 2:37:41 AM
Re: name required
great post
delllphi
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50%
delllphi,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/24/2015 | 7:21:23 AM
Confidence Man
The name of the "confidence man" was "William Thompson" and not "Samuel Williams". The article "Arrest of the Confidence Man" (New-York Herald, July 8, 1849) can be found online.
xmarksthespot
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50%
xmarksthespot,
User Rank: Strategist
3/19/2015 | 4:24:22 AM
Good examples
Great article!  Periodic User awareness training to reduce social engineering is of paramount importance.  Some phishing emails are so good that high trained security people can fall for them.  The examples in the article effectively demonstrate the issue.


The rule I use for my own emails is not click links in emails, including unsubscribe, unless the email is expected, such as one as confirmation during new account setup. Of course, never click on attachments either unless they are expected.  I have within Spyshelter (anti-keylogger) where I can save an attachment, right click the file and on the pop-up menu click 'Spyshelter-> Check it on VirusTotal'; it uploads to virustotal.com .   It's then scanned by over 50 antivirus software products. 

I think this rule is probably the most important security measure I use for computers at my home.
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